Palace: No link between Duterte’s attacks and priests’ killings
President Rodrigo Duterte’s verbal attacks against the Church has nothing to do with the growing number of priests killed since December 2017, Malacañang said Wednesday.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque issued the statement a day after Archbishop Socrates “Soc” Villegas said assassins could have been “emboldened” by Duterte’s verbal attacks against the clergy.
Villegas on Tuesday denounced the killing of Fr. Richmond Nilo in Nueva Ecija – the third priest murdered since December 2017.
“We join the Catholic bishops and faithful in condemning the murder of Catholic priests, namely, Fr. Mark Ventura, Fr. Tito Paez and Fr. Richmond Nilo,” Roque said.
The government and the Philippine National Police, he said “have mounted investigations into these crimes and have vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice.”
He added that the Philippine National Police (PNP) would “be working closely with the Church, especially the hierarchy and the clergy, on measures to protect our priests.”
The Palace official denied that the President’s attacks against the Church have “emboldened” killers of priests.
“The President himself has ordered an intensified campaign against criminality to further expand the significant strides we made in the peace and order situation in the country, as acknowledged by various reports,” he said.
Duterte has publicly slammed the Catholic Church after several of its officials criticized him over his administration’s war on drugs as he vowed to expose the abuses of the church.
Roque said the spate of killings on priests was only a way of criminals to discredit the anti-criminality campaign of the administration.
“In this nationwide drive, lawless elements will seek to block our efforts by sowing division and creating animosity, even exploiting crimes like the killings of priests,” he said.
“We must stand united against these purveyors of crime and together advance the peace and security of the nation and the Church,” he added. /cbb
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